‘Truly exceptional’: Jorge Jesus hails Al-Hilal players as champions lift Roshn Saudi League trophy in glitzy ceremony

Al-Hilal coach Jorge Jesus said the club's 2023-24 SPL campaign could be the best in their 66-year-history. (Supplied/SPL)
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Updated 26 May 2024

‘Truly exceptional’: Jorge Jesus hails Al-Hilal players as champions lift Roshn Saudi League trophy in glitzy ceremony

  • Club can secure an invincible league season if they avoid defeat at Al-Wehda on Monday
  • Al-Hilal beat Al-Tai 3-1 on Thursday through Salem Al-Dawsari, Michael and Malcom goals

RIYADH: After newly crowned Roshn Saudi League champions Al-Hilal lifted the league trophy in a stunning ceremony at Kingdom Arena on Friday night, manager Jorge Jesus says the season may be the best ever in the 66-year history of the club.

Unbeaten domestically this season, Al-Hilal — who created world history by winning 34 matches in succession between September and April across all competitions — clinched the title with three games to spare. The champions are 14 points ahead of second-placed Al-Nassr.

An invincible league season will be secured for the Saudi Super Cup winners if they avoid defeat in their final match at Al-Wehda on Monday. The King’s Cup final against Al-Nassr concludes Al-Hilal’s campaign.

Jesus said: “This season has been truly exceptional for the team — arguably our best ever. The credit goes to the immense talent within the squad and the incredible sense of unity that transcends both on and off-field interactions. We’re currently vying for three local trophies this season. We’ve already secured two and are determined to win the last one.”

Al-Hilal’s latest victory saw them beat Al-Tai 3-1 on Thursday thanks to first-half goals from Salem Al-Dawsari and Michael, and a goal on the hour mark from Malcom. Andrei Cordea netted a consolation strike for Al-Tai.

India coach Gautam Gambhir backs Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma to play at 2027 Cricket World Cup

Updated 22 July 2024

India coach Gautam Gambhir backs Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma to play at 2027 Cricket World Cup

  • Gambhir begins his tenure this week with a tour of Sri Lanka that includes three T20s and three one-day internationals
  • Kohli and Sharma had announced their T20 retirements after India’s World Cup triumph in the West Indies on June 29

MUMBAI: New India coach Gautam Gambhir has backed star batters Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to continue playing in the long term, even possibly at the 2027 Cricket World Cup in South Africa.
Gambhir begins his tenure as Indian men’s team coach this week with a tour of Sri Lanka that includes three T20s and three one-day internationals.
Kohli and Sharma had announced their T20 retirements after India’s World Cup triumph in the West Indies on June 29. While Kohli is 35 years old and Sharma is 37, Gambhir backed both to continue playing for India in tests and ODIs.
“I think they have shown what they can deliver on the big stage, whether it’s the T20 or ODI World Cup. One thing I can be very clear of is that both have a lot of cricket left in them,” Gambhir said on Monday. “With the Champions Trophy and a big tour of Australia (coming up), they will be motivated enough. And then, hopefully, if they can keep their fitness, the 2027 World Cup as well.”
Both Kohli and Sharma have been included in India’s ODI squad for the Sri Lanka tour, with the latter back leading the side.
Gambhir and Kohli have had highly publicized spats in the past, especially in the Indian Premier League.
The first came in 2013 when Gambhir was captain of Kolkata Knight Riders with another in 2023 when he was leading Lucknow SuperGiants. Kohli was part of the Royal Challengers Bengaluru on both occasions.
“My relationship with Virat Kohli is not for the public. It may be good for TRP (during IPL), but it is between two mature individuals,” said Gambhir. “He is a thorough professional and a world class athlete, he is a world class player. I have always said that.
“On the field, everyone has the right to fight for their own team, but at the moment, we are representing India and I am sure we are going to be on the same page – to make India proud. I have huge respect for him as a player and it is going to continue. Hopefully, we can work together really well.”
Suryakumar Yadav has been named the new T20 captain, taking over from Sharma as India looks to build toward the 2026 World Cup, with young batting star Shubman Gill his vice-captain.
That shuts out Hardik Pandya, who was vice-captain at 2024 T20 World Cup. Pandya had also led India in T20s since 2022.
“Hardik is still a very important player for us. We want him to be fit and be the player he can be for India. Those all-round skills are very difficult to find and fitness obviously has been a challenge for him over the last few years, which makes things a little difficult for the coach or even the selectors,” said Ajit Agarkar, India’s chief selector.
“You obviously want a captain that is likely to play all the games. We (also) think Suryakumar Yadav is a deserving candidate and has the necessary qualities to succeed as captain. Over time we will see how he develops into this role as the next World Cup is only in 2026.”
Yadav, though, missed out on India’s ODI squad, with keeper-batter Rishabh Pant making a comeback to the format. Pant was involved in a car accident in December 2022 and missed 18 months before returning to India’s T20 side for the World Cup.
“We haven’t discussed Surya for ODIs at this point. Shreyas Iyer is back and Lokesh Rahul is back too (for ODIs),” Agarkar said. “They had a great World Cup (2023). Rishabh is back as well, so there is quality in the middle order.
“Regards to Rishabh again, before his unfortunate accident, he’s been a key player for us. Now that he’s back, you want to get him around the group again, playing again.”
Indian team officials are aiming to manage the workloads of different players through the upcoming season, with a tour of Australia beginning in November and the Champions Trophy early next year.
As such, star fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah has been completely rested for the Sri Lanka tour after his stellar performances in the T20 World Cup.
“Workload management for someone like Bumrah is very important. He is a rare bowler that anyone would want. You want him to play important games,” said Gambhir.

Ukraine’s Natus Vincere clinch Counter-Strike 2 championship at Esports World Cup

Updated 22 July 2024

Ukraine’s Natus Vincere clinch Counter-Strike 2 championship at Esports World Cup

  • Side defeated G2 in best of 3 showdown 2-1 to claim $400,000 prize

RIYADH: Natus Vincere of Ukraine etched their name in the esports history books on Sunday after overcoming G2 to win the Esports World Cup Counter-Strike 2 competition.

Global audiences and another capacity crowd at the SEF Arena in Boulevard Riyadh City enjoyed an exciting battle as the two teams faced off in an all-European showdown — the first in an Esports World Cup Grand Final.

With both registering impressive performances and eliminating some CS2 heavyweights en route to the final, the match closed out week three of the Esports World Cup.

With a $400,000 prize and vital EWC Club Championship points at stake, NAVI came from behind to win the best of three grand final 2-1 and clinch the CS2 title.

Reflecting on the victory at the Esports World Cup, iM of NAVI said: “It feels amazing to win — we took this tournament seriously. We had high expectations from the start and we kept the same standards throughout. To win the tournament is a great feeling — for me individually and for us as a team — because it shows that the hard work we’ve been putting in is paying off.

“G2 played some very good CS2 tonight. They provided a type of test we’d not experienced this week until the grand final. But we came back and we’re delighted.”

For NAVI, winning CS2 capped off a memorable week in Riyadh. Since the 15-team $1 million tournament began on Wednesday, the Ukranian club beat FURIA 2-0 in the opening stage before overcoming FaZe Clan 2-0 and MOUZ 2-1 in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

The NAVI lineup consists of: b1t (Valerij Vakhovsjkyj, Ukraine); Aleksib (Aleksi Virolainen, Finland); jL (Justinas Lekavicius, Lithuania); iM (Mihai Ivan, Romania); and w0nderful (Ihor Zhandov, Ukraine).

When asked about the reasons behind their consistent form and brilliant performances, jL said: “We showed a mental edge over our opponents. We went behind in matches this week but showed resilience and came back every time. This is a credit to the psychology of this team.

“We’ve also been in great form over the last six months. Winning here this week shows that we’re doing things right — both between tournaments and when we’re out there competing.”

The Esports World Cup is running from July 3 to Aug. 25 with 22 tournaments across 21 titles throughout its eight-week duration. Week four begins on July 23 with three tournaments taking place daily until July 28.

Pandya fitness issues cost him India T20 captaincy—selector

Updated 22 July 2024

Pandya fitness issues cost him India T20 captaincy—selector

  • Explosive Indian batter Suryakumar Yadav was named skipper for India’s T20 format for Sri Lanka tour 
  • Pandya, who was vice-captain during last month’s T20 World Cup, has suffered from fitness problems 

Mumbai: Hardik Pandya lost out on India’s T20 captaincy to Suryakumar Yadav because of concerns over his availability after frequent injury absences, India’s chief selector Ajit Agarkar said Monday.
Explosive middle-order batsman Suryakumar, 33, was last week named Rohit Sharma’s successor in the T20 format for India’s white-ball tour of Sri Lanka, which begins Saturday.
All-rounder Pandya, 30, was Rohit’s deputy during India’s T20 World Cup triumph last month but he has suffered from fitness problems and missed the 50-over World Cup last year with an ankle injury.
“Fitness has been something that he’s struggled with,” Agarkar told reporters in Mumbai alongside new coach Gautam Gambhir.
“As selectors, it becomes difficult then. The thought behind it was that we want someone who is likely to be available more.”
India begin their Sri Lanka trip with the first of three Twenty20 internationals on Saturday and Pandya has reportedly opted out of the three subsequent one-day internationals.
He was “still a very important player,” Agarkar said. “And that’s what we want him to be, those skill sets are hard to find.”
Agarkar praised Suryakumar’s captaincy credentials.
“He is one of the best T20 batters in the world,” said Agarkar.
“We feel that Surya has all the necessary qualities to be a good captain.
“We wanted a captain, who is likely to play all the games.”
Suryakumar would remain solely a T20 player, said Agarkar. Rohit has retained the 50-over captaincy.
Gambhir explained his coaching philosophy, speaking to reporters for the first time since succeeding Rahul Dravid.
“I think it is important to give players the freedom, that’s what I believe in,” he said.
“The best relationship is built on trust. I can promise that the most important thing is that they will always have my back.”
Rohit, 37, and Virat Kohli, 35, both quit T20 internationals after the World Cup.
Gambhir, a former India teammate of both Kohli and Rohit, expects the veteran pair to remain key figures in the Test and 50-over teams.
“Both those guys have a lot of cricket left in them,” Gambhir said, adding he hoped they are motivated to feature in the 2024/25 tour to Australia and next year’s 50-over Champions Trophy.
Retirement is “a very personal decision” he added.

Former Tottenham boss Redknapp joins forces with UAE-based ‘Green Goals’ campaign

Updated 22 July 2024

Former Tottenham boss Redknapp joins forces with UAE-based ‘Green Goals’ campaign

  • The initiative by company Fuelre4m looks to harness the power of football to drive sustainability and environmental change

DUBAI: UAE-based clean-fuel technology firm Fuelre4m have announced a partnership with Harry Redknapp — former Tottenham, Portsmouth and West Ham football manager — as part of their “Green Goals” campaign.

The initiative aims to utilize former football stars to raise awareness and action for sustainability.

“With the global football industry emitting over 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, more top players need to join in to make a bigger impact,” Redknapp said recently.

“Football’s carbon footprint is massive, and players do have a responsibility to help. They can do more by getting involved in green campaigns, pushing for eco-friendly stadiums and clubs, and using social media to spread awareness and influence fans.”

“Football has the power to inspire millions,” he added. “If we can use that influence to promote sustainability, we can make a real difference. That’s why I’m excited to be part of Fuelre4m’s ‘Green Goals’ campaign.”

Rob Mortimer, managing director of Fuelre4m, highlighted the significance of Redknapp’s support.

“Having Harry Redknapp on board is a game-changer. His influence in the football world is immense, and his support for our campaign underscores the importance of sustainability in sports,” he said.

“Harry’s involvement will undoubtedly motivate players and fans to take action, amplifying our efforts to reduce the environmental impact of fossil fuels.”

FuelRe4m has developed a fuel-reforming technology that enhances the combustion process in engines, the company stated.

By breaking down impurities and complex hydrocarbons in liquid fossil fuels, the Re4mx technology is aimed at ensuring a more efficient and cleaner burn.

This results in increased power output, lower fuel consumption, and a significant reduction in harmful emissions.

Neymar revels in Esports World Cup action in Riyadh

Updated 22 July 2024

Neymar revels in Esports World Cup action in Riyadh

  • Al-Hilal’s Brazilian superstar was avid spectator at the largest gaming and esports festival in the world

RIYADH: Neymar, the Brazilian superstar footballer who plays for Al-Hilal in the Saudi Pro League, was a delighted spectator in Riyadh at the inaugural Esports World Cup, the globe’s largest gaming festival.

The No. 10 joined packed crowds to watch the action at Boulevard Riyadh City, as teams in the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” and “Counter-Strike 2” contests battled it out in the finals.

He also met Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation.

The world event features a unique cross-game structure pitting the top clubs and players against one another across 22 global competitions in 21 leading games.

Held at the 8,000-capacity SEF Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City, the event runs until Aug. 25, and has a tournament prize pool of $60 million, the largest in the history of esports.

More than 1,500 players, of over 60 nationalities, are participating at the Esports World Cup.

As well as the “Dota 2 Riyadh Masters,” week three of the competition featured elite action in the “Counter Strike 2” and “PUBG Mobile” contests.